Home Asia Pinning Down: The forceful sterilization of Uighur Muslims in China

Pinning Down: The forceful sterilization of Uighur Muslims in China



In August 2018, the world came to know about the blood-curdling oppression of Uighur muslims in the western Xinjiang region of China. A UN committee was apprised of “re-education” programmes being run by the government targeted at the Uighurs and other muslim minorities, held up oppressively in the aforementioned region. Belonging to Turkish ethnicity, millions of Uighur muslims have been at the receiving end of the tyrannical surveillance and persecution by the Chinese state, which includes collection of DNA and biometric samples .

The Xinjiang region, China’s biggest region in the remote west, shares its borders with India, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Afghanistan. Uighur muslims make up nearly 11 million of Xinjiang’s total population. An interesting feature to note about this region is that it serves an area of great strategic importance to China as it provides crucial trade routes across European, African and Central Asian countries for China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The abundance of natural resources also makes it a region of keen interest for the Chinese government.

The Uighur muslims are increasingly marginalised in this region as they are conclusively prohibited to carry out many of their religious and cultural activities and also suffer unequal economic distribution of resource utilisation in comparison to the Hans in the region. The Uighurs had briefly declared independence in the 20th century but could not retain the same after China’s Communist Government took over in 1949. In order to restore public sanctitude and a stable power nexus, the party enforced absolute political and cultural compliance. Since then, Islamic religion has been touted as an expression of extremism and one worthy of being suppressed with an iron fist.

It was reported by the Human Rights Watch that the aforementioned genetic samples were collected with the purpose of marking and segregating the individuals of this group whose ancestry could be traced to “sensitive” nations. They were detained in camps where they would be forced to learn Mandarin and physically and psychologically tortured to give up their faith. In official statements, China has consistently denied the presence of any internment camps as these and has instead claimed that they are centres for “vocational training”. These centres have held millions of Uighur muslims in around 49 detention camps since April 2017.

Recent addition to the list of sanctions and forced implementations on Uighurs is their coercive sterilisation by the State. An Associate Press investigation has revealed that China is forcing women with three or more children, in the Xinjiang region, to be sterilised or implanted with contraceptive devices in order to contain the Uighur population in the region. The reports speak of locals narrating draconian events where officials landed up pounding at the doors of pregnant women. Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State vehemently criticised Beijing for this brutality and exhorted the chinese government to  “immediately end these horrific practices.”

China had brazenly tried to brush the activities in these camps under the carpet by saying that these were necessary measures taken by the government to tackle the terrorist activities by seperatist groups in the Xinjiang region. These aggressive measures taken by China to cut the Uighur population by means of IUDs, termination of pregnancies and forceful sterilization are being termed as “demographic genocide” and an attempt at ethenic cleansing of the Uighurs and their violent assimilation into the majority religious status quo.

Such revelations have been responded to by the Interparliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party group, via a joint statement that they released on Monday. They demanded the setting up of a UN investigation in order to probe into the matter since valid proofs of alleged “mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labor, and the destruction of Uyghur cultural sites, including cemeteries, together with other forms of abuse” have now been found. They urged the world to break its silence and rattle up China for unleashing such malfeasance against ethnic minorities.